I Take Offense to the Ableist Jokes About President Trump

I Take Offense to the Ableist Jokes About President Trump

TrumpWearsAdultDiapers”: It’s a hashtag I first noticed trending in the United States on the morning of June 14. And I remember looking at it with mixed emotions. 

On one hand, I think it’s a small sign of progress toward greater accessibility that the hashtag’s written in a sort of “camelCase” or “PascalCase” — a style of hashtag writing that allows screen readers and text-to-speech programs to properly read hashtags aloud instead of spouting them out as gibberish.

On the other hand, the hashtag is in pretty poor taste for both the aged and disabled communities, and everyone should be able to recognize that. This isn’t about politics, it’s about decency. 

The context for this hashtag seems to be a few images of President Donald Trump’s backside compounded with a video clip of President Trump unsteadily walking down a ramp at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — an event some have coined “#RampGate.” 

Since then, the Twittersphere and armchair physicians have parsed over these clips and photos and many have come to the conclusion that “#TrumpIsUnwell.” And some have relentlessly ridiculed Trump for it.

While it is understandable and important for folks to be concerned about the health of a world leader, ridiculing someone for the way he walks or for the supposition that he uses an adult diaper is a worrying sign of how little progress we’ve made in terms of looking at the disabled or aged population with compassion.

When I watch those clips and look at those photos, I feel something different. The clip of Trump walking down the ramp at West Point and the clip of him shifting his weight, seemingly trying to balance, particularly remind me of myself. After all, it isn’t uncommon to catch me walking downstairs one step at a time or taking it slow on a ramp. Sometimes, it feels like even a small gust of wind is enough to knock me off my balance.

It’s hard not to take these jokes a bit personally. Although folks are indeed “punching up” when they ridicule a president, this time, some are doing so by resurrecting old, narrow-minded ideas of the disabled community; intended or not, it’s a potshot. 

I know some folks who ridicule President Trump like this are trying to be funny, not hateful. And some may say that complaining about these ageist and ableist jokes is me being “too sensitive” or “too politically correct.” But when the punchline to these jokes is simply that someone is different than most able-bodied folks, I don’t think it’s particularly funny or clever.

Poking fun and satirizing those in power is a good and healthy thing. However, when it comes to our politicians, it’s best when we focus on policy, calling out hypocrisy, and the general absurdity of the political circus rather than who can or can’t walk down a ramp with ease.


Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

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  1. Lloyd Napier says:

    You may possibly be more sensitive than baby trump himself. Context is key, so you should pay attention. These types of barbs are fine for him as he purports hinself to be macho, never-wrong, always strong. I am astonished you are paid for your thoughts and words. You are severely obtuse.

    • Young Lee says:

      I agree with you that context is important and I think it is good to criticize politicians for their hypocrisy. In President Trump’s case, I do not think there is anything wrong with criticizing or making fun of his “macho, never-wrong, always strong” attitude. However, I think we can do that without resorting to ableist jokes that also put down the CMT community.

      All the best,

      • Andrew Perkins says:

        I too have been offended by media statements about physical challenge inferring the President is mentally unfit. I grew up with that kind of treatment. I can also relate to slippery leather corrective shoes, and falling down ramps and stairs. It makes me very upset that people are so selfish to mock people for physical issues and place labels. When I was a kid, I was the smartest one in the room, but the easiest to pick on. I learned to be a patient person, but the press these days shows their genuine insensitivity to the disabled.

  2. Dale Spalding says:

    I am certainly no fan of Mr Trump. I think,as a whole, he is trying to destroy our democracy. But as a 75 year old cmter I can empathize with him trying to walk down that ramp with no handrail.

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